Can you believe we are already at the start of tax season? Most of us have been busy preparing W-2’s, 1099’s and other year end documents so our clients can meet deadlines. Personally, I am now working clearing my desk, so as clients come in for their appointments, they aren’t scared to leave papers in my office. Isn’t it amazing how cluttered our desk becomes with sticky notes, phone messages and the occasional IRS letter the client leaves for us?
Today I want to encourage you to get up, walk to the other side of your desk or conference table and look at where you sit and work from your client’s point of view. What do you see? Do you see a well-organized office with a clear desk and neatly organized personal items or do you see a jumbled mess of folders, messages, sticky notes and the remnants of the last snack/meal you consumed at your desk? We are professionals, and as such, we should present an organized professional looking office and workspace. I am not perfect at this, and if you ask my wife, she will tell you I am horrible at it. I am continuing to improve the view from my client’s side of the desk.
While we are discussing your work habits, let me encourage you to rethink how you schedule your days. If you are reading this, you are most likely the boss or at least have some discretion on how you schedule your workday. Please remember that tax season lasts a few long months, but your family and friends are in your life for the long haul. With that in mind, please open your calendar and mark out one night each week that you will not take late appointments or work late. For me, that is Tuesday, so if you call my office on Tuesdays during tax season after 6:30 p.m., I am not answering. I will be out of the office spending time with Luann remembering there is more to life than work.
I also want to encourage you to take 15 minutes each day and go for a walk outside of your office, or a little longer and head to the gym to get some exercise. It is easy for all of us to forget exercise and stay at our desks all day, but that is not healthy and we need to make our health a priority, especially during our busy season. I live in Iowa, where our high temperature for the last week has been hovering around 3 degrees, yes 3 degrees. Do you have any idea what that feels like? If not, trust me, it is cold. When it does warm up, it snows. Good think I like cold and snow or I would be miserable. While we are thinking of regular exercise, I want to remind you to eat healthy and to get away from your desk to eat. This is good for your mental health as well as your physical health. Your health and success matters to us at NSA, as we want to make sure we fulfill our mission which is “Helping our members achieve success in the profession of accounting and taxation.” Please strive to make healthy decisions and find time for yourself during this busy time.
Another way I want to encourage you is to pay attention to your firm’s cyber health during this busy season. NSA has been communicating with you about cybersecurity through emails, Main Street Practitioner blog, and social media. We want to keep you aware of what you can do to keep your business and clients safer, not just during tax season, but all year. You can read NSA’s suggestions for enhancing your cybersecurity here: https://www.nsacct.org/publications/msp-blog. The theme is “12 Days of Cybersecurity,” and I encourage you to read the posts if you haven’t already.
NSA’s cybersecurity tips apply to everyone, not just tax practitioners and accountants. Share them with your friends and family on social media. It is a simple thing that can have a big impact on how they guard their data from cybercrime.
Finally, if you have stayed with me this far, I want to share with you my favorite New Year’s resolution for my business. I have resolved to not do any additional work or service for clients who don’t pay me. I know, that seems harsh as we all have those clients who are experiencing a rough cash flow but are good people. Stop and ask yourself a simple question. Would I loan/give this person $XXX, and if not, why do I continue to do so with my valuable time. I have said goodbye to a few clients that I have worked I mean volunteered for over the last year. I am no longer willing to take on continued liability and expense to help someone who is unwilling to make any effort to pay for my services. Thankfully, this has only been a problem with a very few clients, but the health of my bottom-line matters to me. If you have not cleansed your client lists lately here are a few questions I use to review whether or not to continue an engagement:
- Do I like this client on a personal level or do they annoy me?
- Do they respect me? My staff? My office? My skills?
- Do they treat others like I want to be treated?
- Do they pay timely and willingly?
- Do they listen to my advice?
While this is not an exclusive list, I do start with these questions. If they fail three or more of these questions, I typically help them find a new service provider.
I hope you find this article useful and challenging and that following some, or all, of the advice helps you succeed. Remember our mission at NSA is “Helping our members achieve success in the profession of accounting and taxation.”
Happy Tax Season,